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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research by Michael Sage


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The Society for Psychical Research was founded at the beginning of 1882, for the purpose of making an organised and systematic attempt to investigate various sorts of debatable phenomena which are _primÔ facie_ inexplicable on any generally recognised hypothesis. From the recorded testimony of many competent witnesses, past and present, including observations recently made by scientific men of eminence in various countries, there appeared to be, amidst much illusion and deception, an important body of facts to which this description would apply, and which therefore, if incontestably established, would be of the very highest interest. The task of examining such residual phenomena had often been undertaken by individual effort, but never hitherto by a scientific society organised on a sufficiently broad basis. The following are the principal departments of work which the Society at present undertakes:--

1. An examination of the nature and extent of any influence which may be exerted by one mind upon another, otherwise than through the recognised sensory channels.

2. The study of hypnotism and mesmerism; and an inquiry into the alleged phenomena of clairvoyance.

3. A careful investigation of any reports, resting on testimony sufficiently strong and not too remote, of apparitions coinciding with some external event (as for instance a death) or giving information previously unknown to the percipient, or being seen by two or more persons independently of each other.

4. An inquiry into various alleged phenomena apparently inexplicable by known laws of nature, and commonly referred by Spiritualists to the agency of extra-human intelligences.

5. The collection and collation of existing materials bearing on the history of these subjects.

The aim of the Society is to approach these various problems without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems, once not less obscure nor less hotly debated. The founders of the Society have always fully recognised the exceptional difficulties which surround this branch of research; but they nevertheless believe that by patient and systematic effort some results of permanent value may be attained.

Investigating Committees (with the exception of the Committee for Experiments) are not appointed by the Council; but any group of Members and Associates may become an investigating Committee; and every such Committee will, it is hoped, appoint an Honorary Secretary, and through him report its proceedings to the Council from time to time.

The Council, if it accepts a report so made for presentation to the Society, will be prepared to consider favourably any application on the part of the Committee for funds to assist in defraying the expenses of special experimental investigation.

The Council will also be glad to receive reports of investigation from individual Members or Associates, or from persons unconnected with the Society.[2]

Any such report, or any other communication relating to the work of the Society, should be addressed to Miss Alice Johnson (as Editor of the _Proceedings_ and _Journal_), 20 Hanover Square, London, W., or to J. G. Piddington, Esq., 87 Sloane Street, London, S.W.; or in America to Dr Richard Hodgson, 5 Boylston Place, Boston, Mass.

Meetings of the Society, for the reading and discussion of papers, are held periodically; and the papers then produced, with other matter, are, as a general rule, afterwards published in the _Proceedings_.

The Proceedings of the Society may be obtained directly from the Secretary, 20 Hanover Square, London, W., or from the Secretary of the American Branch, or from any bookseller, through Mr R. Brimley Johnson, 4 Adam Street, Adelphi, London, W.C.